Now is a very acceptable time for God’s people to spread His love and compassion to their neighbors during this health crisis.
Parishes throughout the Jefferson City diocese are organizing Disaster Responder Teams to assist people who are being immediately affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Bishop W. Shawn McKnight is especially calling upon to young people, who have been shown to be less susceptible to the virus, to offer their services in any way possible.
“One of the facts we know but don’t fully understand is that the coronavirus has little impact upon youth but is very detrimental to those who are 60 or over,” the bishop told young people in a March 14 homily in the cathedral. “Because of this fact, your Church will need you to step up to the plate to help the Church respond with caring for those in need.”
He urged young people to ask their pastors, their deacons and pastoral ministers how they may be of best assistance, especially when many normal parish functions have to be temporarily suspended.
“You might be needed to help check up on those who are elderly and live alone,” Bishop McKnight suggested. “Maybe they could use help getting some groceries, having a prescription filled, or to run errands for them without compromising their health.”
All volunteers will be required to follow local, state and federal public health officials’ guidelines.
He said he could think of no better way right now for young people to take their rightful role in the life and mission of the Church.
“Instead of fretting about the pandemic, how about trusting in the Lord, listening to His voice, and responding with faith, hope and charity?” he asked.
Toward that end, parishes are organizing Disaster Responder Teams to anticipate and address an array of situations that local Catholics and non-Catholics within their parish boundaries will likely experience.
The parishes are doing so with guidance from the diocesan Parish and Charitable Services Office and from Catholic Charities of Central and Northern Missouri (CCCNMO).
Laypeople in each parish will serve on a leadership team that will be responsible for the coordination of services within their parish territory.
With careful concern for the health and safety of all, they will plan for how to help the most vulnerable people in the short term during the coronavirus pandemic, especially the community transmission phase of the virus in the area.
Chief among those to be kept in mind are “the lonely, the poor and the forgotten,” according to Bishop McKnight.
The parish leadership teams will work with parish or local Church organizations that could help with an immediate charitable response.
They will collect names and contact information for individual volunteers who are willing to help.
They will identify basic needs for people affected by the virus or by any limited mobility associated with efforts to contain it.
Such needs may include transportation needs or delivery of food and medicine.
Each parish leadership team will formulate a plan to contact and offer support to people who are quarantined, self-isolating, or in need.
This could include families of healthcare professionals and those who are being called to work extra shifts.
Each team will also coordinate with any local non-Catholic organizations in order to minimize duplication of services.
Alive and well!
Volunteers can go online to diojeffcity.org/parish-disaster-responders-team-volunteer-form to fill out a simple, interactive form stating their contact information and how they are willing and able to assist.
Each application will be sent to the volunteer’s pastor and to the head of that parish’s crisis response team.
“This is about how we can put our hands and hearts to work in this time of need,” stated LeAnn Korsmeyer, diocesan director of parish and charitable services.
It all ties into efforts throughout the diocese to reinforce the understanding of parishes as centers of mercy and charity for all people.
“The Holy Spirit is working through our pastoral planning process, and Bishop McKnight’s vision is coming to fruition faster than any of us could have imagined,” she said.
People need to know that they needn’t be Catholic in order to turn to the local Catholic parish for thoughtful and practical assistance.
“Whoever you are, you can contact your local Catholic church and inform them of your need and they will provide appropriate assistance within their means,” said Mrs. Korsmeyer.
She pointed out that people are stepping forward to ask, “What can we do to help?”
Lauren Hildreth, coordinator for the JP2 Young Adult group in Jefferson City, heard Bishop McKnight’s homily on March 14.
“She immediately touched base with the leadership team to coordinate efforts in her area,” said Mrs. Korsmeyer.
The group, sponsored by Cathedral of St. Joseph parish, encourages young adults ages 18-35 to grow in their faith and be a positive witness of Christ in their community.
Father Joshua Duncan — who ministers at Cathedral of St. Joseph parish, Helias Catholic High School and in the diocesan Vocations Office, oversees the Frassati Fraternity, which is also sponsored by the Cathedral parish but is supported through male students at Helias.
He said that group is eager, willing and able to assist the community, as well.
God’s great compassion
“These are the times that bring all of us together,” said Mrs. Korsmeyer.
“And with a calm resolve,” she continued, paraphrasing Pope Francis, “this is our time to be the Church living in the midst of her people.”
In a letter to the faithful of the diocese, Bishop McKnight pointed out that efforts such as these take on increased significance in this penitential season leading up to Easter.
“Many people’s lives are being disrupted by the coronavirus and our attempts to stop its rapid spread,” the bishop noted. “In this season of Lent, let us increase our prayers, fasting and almsgiving, so that God’s great compassion and love may be a source of hope and consolation for all.”